Feeling somewhat adventurous, I hired a dune buggy for a day to get to some of the harder to reach spots on Fernando de Noronha. The freedom was wonderful, and I ticked a few more places off my list that I’d been meaning to see or go back to.
First stop though was down to the petrol station to fill up. I must say it was a bit challenging trying to stay on what I consider to be the wrong side of the road. Plus I had no idea how much fuel this thing was going to need or use. With some help from the locals, I was off and running.
And I soon found myself back at my favourite haunt, the Baia do Sancho.
After a 300m walk to the cliffs, you then descend down two sets of rickety ladders to end up walking down onto a gorgeous stretch of beach. Giant white birds with pterodactyl-style tails were flying and circling around overhead, before sheltering in the trees that hugged the cliffs around the calm bay. It was somewhat like a scene out of Jurassic park, but without the fences, or the maneaters…
There was a giant tree at one end of the beach providing shade and protection for the handful of tourists who had come to snorkel and bathe. At the other end, tranquility and isolation…
I loved the freedom that the buggy brought, even though it was a bugger to drive. At night it was dangerous too, as the top of the buggy obscured most of my vision of the road… Regardless, it was all going well. That was until… it broke. The gears snapped or something <insert technical explanation here later> and left me practically immobile on a busy enough stretch of road where there no places to pull over. Directly on either side of the road were large gullies for the rain…. and no place for stopping.
With some mild swearing from other drivers, and a bit of a panic, I managed to veer the buggy by reversing down the wrong side of the road, and snagging an impromptu parking spot out the front of one of the restuarants. Lucky for me, one of the guys hanging around out the front, knew the owner of the buggy hire company. And it got all sorted within a half hour…
They offered me a replacement buggy, but that thing was crazy I tell you. I said, ‘maybe tomorrow…’
If you truly want to be in awe of Fernando de Noronha, then I recommend starting with one of the general island tours on your first day. (Blue Marlin had some good tours!) It’s great as there are some areas of the island you are only allowed to go to with a guide, particularly where the sea turtles are hatching and their breeding grounds. Once you’ve gone around to all points of the island, heard all the local stories, seen the views and taken those tourist pose photos (see below), then you’re pretty much free to pick and choose from the type of scene you want to for the rest of your time.
From the sandy stretch of Praia Baldro to the snorkeling haven of Baia dos Porcos to the enchanting Baio do Sancho, you’ll be spoilt for choice on this island. Waves? There’s a beach for that. Snorkeling, there’s a hundred bays for that. Chilled down time, there’s a beach for that too….
Buggies, Bikes or Hikes are the best way to get around the island – and it’s not that big a place that you can’t get to or from any one place without too many worries.
Tour operators offer boat trips around the island too. Dolphins love to play alongside the boats as you head to the bays around the island and drop anchor to snorkel. I didn’t really rate snorkeling before this trip. I’d been snorkeling up in Cairns, and it was fun, but would I be itching to do it again – probaby not. But here, the sheer volume of wildlife underneath the waters, and the absolute purity and clarity in the waters around the island make snorkeling or diving a must.
You could see down for 40 metres through the water to the sea floor below with little difficulty. Giant sea turtles lazily swim around, as do manta rays, sharks (friendly mostly), fish of all sizes and colours.
I didn’t make it diving, but maybe these videos might whet your appetite!
On the island, the birds slowly circle overhead above the beaches, as hordes of small lizards roam the rocks and scurry when the giant rat-like creatures come snooping around. Natural beauty is everywhere… just as you’d hope.
I had believed the massive grey shape across the bay on the horizon to be the mainland, but no, it turned out to be my next destination.
Ilha Grande, aptly named as this island is huge, is mostly an untouched paradise just south of Rio de Janeiro, next to Angra dos Reis.
After docking the ferry at Vila Abraão, pop 6,000, we were greeted by six sandy streets of tourist shops, restaurants, pousadas and bars to choose from. This is the only real village on the island and the main hub of activity.
I grabbed my backpack and walked onwards, asking along the way how to get to my pousada. It turned out to be both awesome and quaint.
A hammock at the front, which you can sit in and read, while small monkeys play in the trees above. The pousada host was friendly, if not a little deaf, so he didn’t quite understand every question, but happily responded to whichever question he thought he heard.
The place was charming. The only downside to pousadas are that they are not as easy to meet other people as at the youth hostels, but then again, you do get your own room, and no one tries to have sex in the bunk above while you sleep. Hehe. Ahhh hostel life…
The island has an interesting history, and was once a leper colony, and also contained a number of prisons. Oh to be trapped in paradise! The unsavory past has helped it’s future though, as the island remained largely undeveloped.
While on Ilha Grande, which is as close to a natural ecosystem that you can still access, there’s plenty to do. Schooner trips, diving, surfing, hiking along the many trails, and bathing in the waterfalls just to name a few…
This island should definitely be added to anyone’s Brazil travel itinerary without hesitation.